Adams Papers

From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 1 November 1785

To Thomas Jefferson

Grosvenor Square Nov. 1. 1785.

Dear Sir

Your Favour of the 18th. did not reach me, till last night.— I am glad the Dr has arrived Safe and in so good health, and would fain hope he may contribute to compose the jarring Parties in Pensilvania, as well as assist in improving the Union of the States.— Mrs Rucker has a Letter from her Sister at New York, which mentions the Arrival of Mr Otto, So that I think Madame la Comtess de Doradour may be Satisfied that the Comte her Husband is arrived.1

I have been told that the Court of France has contracted with an House at Nantes for Supplying their Navy, with American Masts. As this is an Affair Somewhat interesting, to Great Britain as well as to France and the United States, I Should be obliged to you for the Particulars. I wish the Report may be true, and that it may be soon followed by Arragements for illuminating their Cities with our fine White Sperma Cæti Oil, and their Churches and Families with our beautifull Sperma Cæti Candles. Pray what is the Reason that the Virginians dont learn to Sort their Tobacco at home, that they may be able to furnish the French with Such Parts of their Produce as are adapted to that Markett, without obliging the Farmers general to think of going to Holland, or coming to England to purchase them. There is a considerable Loss to our Country, in Freight Insurance, Commissions and Profits, arising from this indirect Comme[rce,] and you know as We are poor We ought to be Œconomists: but if We w[ere] rich it would not be wise nor honourable to give away our Wealth without Consideration and Judgment.

General Arnold is gone out to Hallifax, with a Vessell and Cargo, of his own, upon what kind of Speculation I know not. Some say that not associating with British Officers, not being able to bear a Life of Inactivity and having a young Family to provide for, he is gone to seek his Fortune.2 whether it is a political Maneuvre or not, I wish that Mr Deane, Mr Irvin, Mr Chalmers and Mr Smith, were gone with him. The Doctrine of these Gentlemen is that this Country and her Commerce are so essential to the U. States that they cannot exist without them, and that the states c[an] never unite in any measures of Retaliation, nor in any Plan to encourage their own Navigation Acts. and they find Persons enough who have an ardent Passion to believe what is so conformable to their Wishes. if our Country is so situated, that She must consent that G. Britain Shall carry all our own Produce, to the West India Islands to Canada to Nova scotia, to Newfoundland and to Europe too, We must be humble. When We are willing they Should carry half our own Produce, it is not very modest for them to insist upon carrying all.

It is reported that the Ariel had been sent out, express, Since the News of the Hurricane, to carry Orders for admitting american Vessells to the English West India Islands: but for what time and under what restrictions I know not.—3

Captain Bell arrived at Philadelphia, on the 14. sept. the same day with Dr F. and is Said to have made a good Voyage.4 This is the [third] Ship from India, and Insurance is making here upon four ot[her Ships bo]und the same Way.— The former could not be insured under tw[elve Per] Cent. These are done at seven.

My dear sir Adieu

John Adams

RC (DLC:Jefferson Papers); addressed: “France. / A Son Excellence / Monsieur Jefferson Ambassadeur / des Etats Unis De L’Amerique / Paris.”; internal address: “Mr Jefferson.”; endorsed: “Mr. Adams.” LbC (Adams Papers); APM Reel 111. Text lost due to a tight binding and the removal of the seal has been supplied from the LbC.

1Jane (Janet) Marshall Rucker was the wife of John Rucker, a business partner of Robert Morris. The couple had met the Adamses in France and were frequent visitors in London. Her sister was probably Margaret Marshall (AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 6:70, 71; 7:28; Margaret Armstrong, Five Generations: Life and Letters of an American Family, 1750–1900, N. Y., 1930, p. 20). In his 18 Oct. letter (Adams Papers) Jefferson, at the request of the Comtesse Marie du Bourg de Doradour, asked JA for news of the packet on which had sailed Louis Guillaume Otto and her husband, Charles François, the Comte de Doradour, who went to the United States to purchase land with the intention of emigrating (Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 8:647; 10:616). The New-York Journal of 1 Sept. reported the arrival of the packet Le Courier de L’Orient on 25 August.

2In October Benedict Arnold, dissatisfied with the compensation received for his treason and unwilling to live out his life as a half-pay colonel, sailed for Canada with the intention of establishing himself as a mer chant at St. John, New Brunswick. At London he left his wife, Margaret Shippen Arnold, and six children, who joined him there in 1787. The harsh economic conditions that he found upon his arrival as well as a series of disasters, including the loss of his first ship and several lawsuits, ultimately led him to abandon the undertaking. By 1792 he was back in London, where he died in 1801 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty, Mark C. Carnes, and Paul Betz, eds., American National Biography, New York, 1999–2002; 24 vols. plus supplement; rev. edn., description ends ; Willard Sterne Randall, Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor, N. Y., 1990, p. 594–604).

3Reports of the severe hurricane that ravaged the West Indies at the end of Aug. 1785 reached London on or about 24 Oct., possibly brought by the sloop-of-war Ariel, which sailed from hard-hit Jamaica on 12 September. See, for example, the London General Evening Post, 22–25, 27–29 Oct.; London General Advertiser, 24 Oct.; London Chronicle, 25–27, 27–29 Oct., 29 Oct. – 1 November.

4Capt. Thomas Bell of the United States, inbound from Pondicherry, India (Smith, Empress of China description begins Philip Chadwick Foster Smith, The Empress of China, Philadelphia, 1984. description ends , p. 207, 321).

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